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The amulet of the scarab

The amulet of the scarab,

From what has been said above it will be seen that the amulet of the
heart, which was connected with the most important and most popular of
the Chapters for protecting the heart, was directed to be made in the
form of the scarab at a very early date. We can trace the ideas which the
Egyptians held about this insect as far back as the time of the
building of the Pyramids, 1 and there is no doubt that they represented
beliefs which even at that early period were very old. The Egyptian seems to
have reasoned thus: since the physical heart is taken from the body
before mummification, and the body has need of another to act as the
source of life and movement in its new life, another must be put in its
place. But a stone heart, whether made of lapis-lazuli or carnelian, is
only a stone heart after all, and even though by means of prayers properly
recited it prevents the physical heart from being carried off by "those
who plunder hearts," it possesses nothing of itself which can be turned
to account in giving new life and being to the body on which it lies.
But the scarab or beetle itself possesses remarkable powers, and if a
figure of the scarab be made, and the proper words of power be written
upon it, not only protection of the dead physical heart, but also new
life and existence will be given to him to whose body it is attached.
Moreover, the scarab was the type and symbol of the god Khepera, the
invisible power of creation which propelled the sun across the sky. The
particular beetle chosen by the Egyptians to copy for amulets belongs to
the family of dung-feeding Lamellicorns which live in tropical countries.
The species are generally of a black hue, but amongst them are to be
found some adorned with the richest metallic colours. A remarkable
peculiarity exists in the structure and situation of the hind legs, which are
placed so near the extremity of the body, and so far from each other,
as to give the insect a most extraordinary appearance when walking. This
peculiar formation is, nevertheless, particularly serviceable to its
possessors in rolling the balls of excrementitious matter in which they
enclose their eggs. These balls are at first irregular and soft, but,
by degrees, and during the process of rolling along, become rounded and
harder; they are propelled by means of the hind legs. Sometimes these
balls are an inch and a half or two inches in diameter, and in rolling
them along the beetles stand almost upon their beads, with the heads
turned from the balls. These man?uvres have for their object the burying
of the balls in holes, which the insects have previously dug for their
reception; and it is upon the dung thus deposited that the larv?, when
hatched, feed. It does not appear that these beetles have the ability to
distinguish their own balls, as they will seize upon those belonging to
another, in the case of their having lost their own; indeed, it is said
that several of them occasionally assist in rolling the same ball. The
males as well as the females assist in rolling the pellets. They fly
during the hottest part of the day. 1.

Among the ancients several curious views were held about the scarab,
whether of the type scarab?us sacer or the Ateuchus Aegyptiorium, 2 and
Aelian, Porphyry,and Horapollo declared that no female scarab existed.
The last named writer stated that the scarab denoted "only begotten,"
because it was a creature self-produced, being unconceived by a female.
He goes on to say that, having made a ball of dung, the beetle rolls it
from east to west, and having dug a hole, he buries it in it for eight
and twenty days; on the twenty-ninth day he opens the ball, and throws
it into the water, and from it the scarab?i come forth. The fact that
the scarab flies during the hottest part of the day made the insect to
be identified with the sun, and the ball of eggs to be compared to the
sun itself. The unseen power of God, made manifest under the form of the
god Khepera, caused the sun to roll across the sky, and the act of
rolling gave to the scarab its name kheper, i.e., "he who rolls." The sun
contained the germs of all life, and as the insect's ball contained
the germs of the young scarabs it was identified also with the sun as a
creature which produced life in a special way. Now, the god Khepera also
represented inert but living matter, which was about to begin a course
of existence, and at a very early period he was considered to be a god
of the resurrection; and since the scarab was identified with him that
insect became at once the symbol of the god and the type of the
resurrection. But the dead human body, from one aspect, contained the germ of
life, that is to say, the germ of the spiritual body, which was called
into being by means of the prayers that were recited and the ceremonies
that were performed on the day of the funeral; from this point of view
the insect's egg ball and the dead body were identical. Now, as the
insect had given potential life to its eggs in the ball, so, it was
thought, would a model of the scarab, itself the symbol of the god Khepera,
also give potential life to the dead body upon which it was placed,
always provided that the proper "words of power" were first said over it
or written upon it. The idea of "life" appears to have attached itself
to the scarab from time immemorial in Egypt and the Eastern S?d?n, for
to this day the insect is dried, pounded, and mixed with water, and
then drunk by women who believe it to be an unfailing specific for the
production of large families. In ancient days when a man wished to drive
away the effects of every kind of sorcery and incantations he might do
so by cutting off the head and wings of a large beetle, which he boiled
and laid in oil. The head and wings were then warmed up and steeped in
the oil of the ?pnent serpent, and when they had been once more boiled
the man was to drink the mixture. 1

The amulet of the scarab has been found in Egypt in untold thousands,
and the varieties are exceedingly numerous. They are made of green
basalt, green granite, limestone, green marble, blue paste, blue glass,
purple, blue and green glazed porcelain, etc.; and the words of power are
usually cut in outline on the base. In rare instances, the scarab has a
human face or head, and sometimes the backs are inscribed with figures
of the boat of Ra;, of the Bennu bird, "the soul of Ra," and of the eye
of Horus. The green stone scarabs are often set in gold, and have a
band of gold across and The scribe Ani holding a necklace with pectoral,
on which is a figure of the boat of Ra; containing a scarab, or beetle,
in the presence of Anubis, the god of the dead.

down the back where the wings join; sometimes the whole back is gilded,
and sometimes the base is covered with a plate of gold upon which the
words of power have been stamped or engraved. Occasionally the base of
the scarab is made in the form of a heart, a fact which proves the
closeness of the relationship which existed between the amulets of the heart
and scarab. In late times, that is to say about B.C. 1200, large
funeral scarabs were set in pylon-shaped pectorals, made of porcelain of
various colours, upon which the boat of the Sun was either traced in
colours or worked in relief, and the scarab is placed so as to appear to be
carried in the boat; on the left stands Isis and on the right Nephthys.
1 The oldest green stone funeral scarab known to me is in the British
Museum (No. 29,224); it was found at Kurna near Thebes and belongs to
the period of the XIth dynasty, about B.C. 2600. The name of the man for
whom it was made (he appears to have been an official of the Temple of
Amen) was traced on it in light coloured paint which was afterwards
varnished; there are no "words of power" on this interesting object.

When once the custom of burying scarabs with the bodies of the dead
became recognized, the habit of wearing them as ornaments by the living
came into fashion, and as a result scarabs of almost every sort and kind
may be found by the thousand in many collections, and it is probable
that the number of varieties of them was only limited by the ability of
those who manufactured them in ancient days to invent new sorts. The use
of the scarab amulet passed into Western Asia and into several
countries which lay on the Mediterranean, and those who wore it seem to have
attached to it much the same idea as its early inventors, the Egyptians.
From a Greek magical papyrus translated by Goodwin 1 we may see that
certain solemn ceremonies were performed over a scarab before it was
worn, even in the period of the rule of the Greeks and Romans. Thus about
the "ring of Horus" and the "ceremony of the beetle" we are told to take
a beetle, sculptured as described below, and to place it on a paper
table, and under the table there shall be a pure linen cloth; under it
put some olive wood, and set on the middle of the table a small censer
wherein myrrh and kyphi shall be offered. And have at hand a small
vessel of chrysolite into which ointment of lilies, or myrrh, or cinnamon,
shall be put, and take the ring and lay it in the ointment, having
first made it pure and clean, and offer it up in the censer with kyphi and
myrrh; leave the ring for three days, and take it out and put it in a
safe place. At the celebration let there lie near at hand some pure
loaves, and such fruits as are in season, and having made another sacrifice
upon vine sticks, during the sacrifice take the ring out of the
ointment, and anoint thyself with the unction from it. Thou shalt anoint
thyself early in the morning, and turning towards the east shalt pronounce
the words written below. The beetle shall be carved out of a precious
emerald; bore it and pass a gold wire through it, and beneath the beetle
carve the holy Isis, and having consecrated it as above written, use
it. The proper days for the celebration were the 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th,
14th, 16th, 21st, 24th, and 25th, from the beginning of the month; on
other days abstain. The spell to be recited began, "I am Thoth," the
inventor and founder of medicines and letters; "come to me, thou that art
under the earth, rise up to me, thou great spirit."




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